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Woman dies after being hit by car

A 66-year-old Cloquet woman died after she was hit by a vehicle just after 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, at the intersection of Washington Avenue and 20th Street in Cloquet.

According to a press release from the Cloquet Police Department, which responded along with the Cloquet Area Fire District, Lavonna Prevost, 66, died from her injuries after being struck while crossing Washington Avenue by a westbound car driven by Marietta Lain-Erickson, 79, of Cloquet.

Neither Lain-Erickson or her passenger, Carl Ruhanen, were injured in the crash.

Cloquet Police said Prevost was believed to have been crossing Washington Avenue at the 20th Street crosswalk in front of the new Cloquet Middle School at the time of the crash.

Cloquet Police Commander Derek Randall said Tuesday night the State Patrol accident reconstructionist said it appeared to be a “slow-speed event,” and that statements from witnesses and people involved said the driver stopped at the stop sign, but then proceeded without seeing the victim in the crosswalk and subsequently ran her over.

An off-duty Cloquet Area Firefighter performed CPR on the victim. However, Prevost died from her injuries.

An evidential blood sample was obtained from Lain-Erickson with results pending, and the Cloquet Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol are investigating the accident.

Family members noted in Prevost’s obituary (see Page A6) that she was an avid walker, who had completed eight Garry Bjorklund Half Marathons and had recently registered for her ninth. She loved to travel, and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

That stretch of Washington Avenue has been the subject of much debate regarding pedestrian safety since the new middle school opened in early September.

Carlton County Engineer JinYeene Neumann said the county made numerous changes to Washington Avenue, which is a county road, since early summer in preparation for the new middle school traffic. They striped turn lanes for the school entrance at Washington and 20th Street. They added and painted crosswalks at 18th, 20th and 22nd streets. They created a 20 mph school speed zone. They posted “Pedestrian Crossing Ahead” signs as well as Pedestrian Crossing signs. They also placed electronic message boards between 14th and 27th streets warning of pedestrian crossings and, later, that a new four-way stop was coming.

Last Friday, the county implemented the new four-way stop at 20th and Washington, and changed the message board to read: “Caution, four-way stop at 20th.”

On school days, the district has paid crossing guards on Washington Avenue before and after school, but there are no such protections other times and cars often speed down Washington Avenue. The 20 mph school speed zone is effective Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Neumann said the county is looking at reconstructing Washington Avenue and has moved the project up to the 2019 construction season.

“We will be taking into account pedestrian traffic more, and possibly putting sidewalks on both sides of the road,” Neumann said. The school district put in an eight-foot-wide asphalt walking path on the school-side of Washington Avenue for walkers and bikers coming to school.

Neumann said her department will be meeting with officials from Cloquet and Scanlon to discuss the project’s scope, and there will be public meetings about the proposed project down the road.

Cloquet Middle School Principal Tom Brenner noted that student safety is one of the district’s highest priorities.

“We have worked hard, and will continue to work hard, to provide safe passage for our students,” Brenner said in a statement to the Pine Journal. “That being said, once again we would like to urge all drivers to use caution in all school zones.

“We will continue to work with city, county and state officials to make all our school crossings as safe as possible for our students.”

Randall urged drivers to pay particular attention to that area as the road design, signage, and speed limit have all changed recently, “and changes might continue as the engineers try to find the best and safest roadway for our drivers and our pedestrians.”

“Come to a complete stop, look in all directions and double-check before proceeding,” the police commander said.